UK-based anti-abortion groups are stepping up their efforts to reach young people in the aftermath of the fall of Roe v. Wade in the US, analysis by VICE World News shows.
When Roe v. Wade – the legal ruling that protected abortion rights across the US – was overturned by the US Supreme Court in June, anti-abortion activists around the world rejoiced and abortion rights supporters VICE World News spoke to feared it could have a global impact.
The right to abortion in the UK is enshrined in the Abortion Act 1967 which states that an abortion is legal if it is performed by a registered medical practitioner (a doctor), and that it is authorised by two doctors. The majority of people in the UK support abortion rights, but anti-abortion groups actively campaign around the country on the streets, in schools and outside abortion clinics – particularly in Scotland, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will support the implementation of buffer zones in Parliament.
VICE World News has found several groups accelerating efforts to reach more people, especially schoolchildren and university students, around the country.
One of the groups, Right to Life, ran a recent fundraising campaign “to help stop a major onslaught from the abortion lobby” which it claims want to use the overturning of Roe v. Wade to “create a negative culture shift”.
Right to Life said it wanted to raise £200,000 to launch a “major nationwide culture-change” initiative that would increase grassroots campaigning and change “hearts and minds of a new generation online” using “cutting-edge video and graphics”.
“When anti-choice groups turn their considerable resources towards targeting young people it is deeply worrying,” said Louise McCudden, the UK advocacy and public affairs adviser for MSI Reproductive Choices, an NGO that provides abortion and contraception care worldwide.
“Young people have a right to accurate, non-judgmental information about healthcare.”
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) is currently recruiting for an executive director of education and research who will be responsible for the group’s schools and youth outreach as well as two youth and student development officers in Scotland and England who will “build our network of young people and student activists in universities and colleges across the UK, as well as supporting our educational outreach in schools.”
Earlier this year, VICE World News revealed that SPUC were using money from an anonymous US donor to target primary school children and medical professionals with anti-abortion materials.
The group has also just announced it is expanding a fund that it claims provides financial grants to pregnant students facing difficulties at university to students across the UK.
Dr Pam Lowe, senior lecturer in sociology and policy at Aston University, said: “The strategy of trying to attract young people into the anti-abortion movement has two components. First, it is a response to the fact that many of their traditional supporters are ageing, and the movement was at risk of dying out.
“Secondly, as abortion is often associated with younger women, they hope it will prevent some abortions. Whilst people are entitled to their beliefs, education providers need to ensure that they provide evidence-based abortion information in schools and colleges, and monitor to ensure misinformation is not circulating.”
VICE World News also found evidence of a group that is actively trying to challenge abortion laws in the UK by reaching out to young people.
In September, the UK branch of the Alliance Defending Freedom, an ultra-conservative Christian legal advocacy group that has a history of attempting to curtail LGBTQ freedoms as well as abortion rights, co-sponsored “pro-life drinks” for an event directed at young anti-abortion campaigners in September.
Abortion Resistance, a youth-led group, was hosting the event with a US anti-abortion activist ahead of March For Life the following day, an annual anti-abortion protest march in London.
The other co-sponsor, the Alliance of Pro-Life Students, which supports anti-abortion university societies around the country, helped to subsidise accommodation for student campaigners who wished to travel to the march.
Shawn Carney, the US CEO for 40 Days for Life, told protestors at the march in London that “if we can do it, you can do it” when it came to the overturning of a national abortion law.
Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, commented: “It is vital women and people have access to high-quality and non-judgemental information and advice about abortion throughout their lives to support them making informed decisions.
“We are concerned that some anti-choice organisations are targeting young people and providing biased and incorrect information that will further stigmatise abortion.
“We would encourage anyone looking for evidence-based support and information about abortion to speak to their doctor, sexual health clinic, or an approved NHS abortion provider such as BPAS, NUPAS or MSI Reproductive Choices.”